Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Help us again, please!

Saffron Walden 1Back in December 2011, we reported that our complaint to the MHRA about point-of-sale advertising for Nelsons homeopathic products found in Holland & Barrett had been upheld.

This was advertising that included therapeutic indications when a condition of the registration of those homeopathic products is that they are not allowed to have indications.

According to the MHRA, Holland & Barrett withdrew the advertising from their stores and agreed to review the information on their website. While they have corrected some of the information on their website, we still think some is not correct and we will be contacting the MHRA again.

However, more than six months later, it seems that some Holland & Barrett stores have yet to remove this prohibited advertising.

Camb GraftonIn May, one of our supporters told us that the Holland & Barrett store in Saffron Walden only removed the advertising after she wrote to them pointing out the MHRA's ruling. She has since spotted the same point-of-sale advertising in other Holland & Barrett stores in London, Cambridge, Saffron Walden, Bury St Edmunds and Stortford.

There are hundreds of Holland & Barrett stores up and down the country and we'd like your help again.

We think this is a matter for Holland & Barrett's head office to sort out once and for all and would like to ask our supporters to check any Holland & Barrett stores they happen to be passing. If you see point-of-sale advertising, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telling them when and where you saw this advertising and refer to the MHRA's decision. But please keep it polite and factual and if you are unsure whether what you saw was prohibited, just ask them to check their advertising.

We think that is the best way to make Holland & Barrett take notice and ensure the misleading advertising is removed from all their stores.

However, if you prefer, you can always have a chat with the store manager and hand him or her one of our information sheets — or just leave one next to the advertising.

And don't forget to let us know how you get on.

accredited homeopathAccredited Homeopath?

Or how about Accredited Crystal Healer? Accredited Iridologist? Accredited Colonic Irrigator?

We are finalising our response to the consultation by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) on its Accredited Registers scheme.

As we pointed out in our last Newsletter, this could pave the way for alternative therapists to claim they are 'officially accredited' or 'Goverment accredited'. They will, after all, be entitled to display a 'quality mark'.

We believe this will simply mislead the public into thinking these therapies are legitimate and have a Government seal of approval.

The CHRE (which will be renamed the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care later this year) do say that being admitted to their Accredited Register:

…will not be an endorsement of the therapeutic validity or effectiveness of any particular discipline or treatment.

However, particularly given the level of interest shown by many alternative therapy trade bodies, we do not believe that the eligibility criteria and standards proposed by the CHRE are sufficiently stringent and robust to prevent alternative therapy organisations applying and achieving the status of an Accredited Register.

We believe that the public will be misled and may even be put in danger by the accreditation of alternative therapies for which there is no robust evidence base and for which there are safety issues or for which safety hasn't been properly assessed.

We also believe that potential customers will not be given all the (unbiased) information required with which to make informed choices and exercise informed consent.

The consultation ends on Tuesday 19 July, so only a few days left to help — but more than enough time. Click here to find out how.

Sensible CNHC advertising advice

We've not said much about the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). They have members from a wide variety of alternative therapies (or 'disciplines' as they call them). This includes reflexologists and we're pleased to see that the CNHC are advising their members to heed the Advertising Standards Authority's adjudications on our three reflexology master complaints and their new guidance on reflexology.

In their July (Issue 32) Newsletter (the link to this newsletter on their website is wrong, but we have our sources!), the CNHC say they have written to all their registered reflexologists:

The [ASA's] CAP Compliance Team has asked CNHC to draw to your attention to:

  • three rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in respect of advertising by reflexologists, which have implications for all reflexologists
  • the latest CAP copy advice with regard to reflexology, in light of these three rulings

The detailed rulings and the advice can be read on www.copyadvice.org.uk/Ad-Advice/Advice-Online-Database/Therapies-Reflexology.aspx

It's also important to understand that the CAP Compliance Team pro-actively monitors advertisements, as explained on www.cap.org.uk/Compliance/Monitoring.aspx

Please check the wording of your websites and publicity materials to ensure that all of your advertising complies with the CAP Advertising Code. The easiest and safest way to describe your reflexology practice is to use the reflexology descriptor that CNHC has agreed with the CAP Copy Advice Team. This is available here and can be downloaded by all CNHC registered reflexologists by logging into the Resources section of MyCNHC. We also recommend that you use CNHC's Advertising Guidance which you can find on our website here: CNHC Advertising Guidance

This is very welcome: although many alternative therapists are responsible and will already be abiding by the rules, it does no harm to remind them and ensure they are aware of what they can and can't claim.

The CNHC's Therapy Descriptors have been agreed with the ASA for all their regulated therapies and they are devoid of the many misleading claims frequently being made by alternative therapists. They provide very responsible guidance that keeps on the right side of the CAP Code.

We hope all CNHC therapists — and non-CNHC therapists — will take note and ensure all their advertising complies with this very sensible advice.

We also hope the CHNC ensures its members abide by it.

Website

We had a small glitch on our website a few weeks ago. This was caused by migrating it to a new bigger, faster, better server, which gave some warning messages that were displayed on the page. This has now been resolved and we apologise for any inconvenience.

06 July 2012

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